Wow. How are we all doing?! It feels like an age since l wrote the last blog. Indeed it might have been an ice age for all I know, because time seems to move in some weird parallel Corona universe just now. Most of the time I have to remind myself what day of the week it really is and weekends don’t actually exist as a real thing anymore. Not the way they used to anyway. Easing of lockdown feels like looking at a mirage of a past life. You can glimpse the wavy outline of it, but it’s still a long way off in the distance. Even more so with Aberdeen city having to go back in to lockdown. Like a weary traveller finally quenching their thirst with a few drops of water, only to have the bottle snatched away again. Sometimes I find it hard to remember what life was like before the world shifted monumentally on it’s axis. The spectre of Covid still looms large whatever we do, casting it’s shadow over every aspect of our lives. A miasma over our memories, clouding our ability to recall how things used to be. How things used to feel.
The only place where I really feel myself is at my livery yard with my horse. In all honesty, I don’t know what I would have done without it. Having Leo gave me a purpose to my day, a focus and a structure when I needed it most. It gave me a reason to get up and out of the house when I would have been in danger of languishing in my own torpour otherwise. I was furloughed from my role here at Country Ways and working from home in my other job. And as us horsey folk know, we are used to being busy. Very busy. On the go all the time. We don’t do well sitting around. Especially indoors. At home. It was a huge adjustment and a major shock to the system. But still being able to see Leo and continue riding was for me, and I’m sure for many others, a mental health safety net. I have no idea how I would have coped without it. My two hour slot became a sanctuary, a small slice of normality where I could feel myself.
From the outset I decided to take all the pressure off. After all, there were no competitions to train for and no lessons running. I didn’t even put my dressage saddle on for weeks. And when I stopped putting myself under so much pressure, everything mysteriously went so much better! Magic eh?! (My coach will definitely laugh at that! ) Now when I say pressure, I don’t mean the kind of pressure that comes from being a top rider out competing every weekend. I am very much an amateur hobby rider! But I mean the kind of pressure that we all put on ourselves to be better. If you are a perfectionist like me (as so many of us horsey folk are!) then nothing is ever good enough. I always find that we are supremely tough on ourselves. And we really should cut ourselves some slack. Because this sport is tough enough. And we run the risk of robbing the joy of it from ourselves. Lockdown meant that for the first time ever, I just had to enjoy Leo for Leo. In that moment, because that’s all there was. It was the ultimate exercise in mindfulness. And it’s no coincidence that he ended up going better than ever. It served as a real eye opener for me and made me really reassess my priorities. I realised with a depth I hadn’t understood before how lucky I am, and what a privilege it is that these animals allow us to indulge our hopes, our dreams, our passion, through them. My time in the saddle became the greatest gift of escapism when I needed it most.
Though I won’t pretend it was always a profoundly mindful experience. Sometimes things went the other way and I had zero motivation to do anything. When you have nothing to aim for, the drive can disappear. On those days I felt so ‘meh’. Everything seemed an effort and I just wanted to sit in my pyjamas, eat chocolate and binge on Netflix. I would also quite happily never do another Zoom call again in my life. I guess that’s the nature of the rollercoaster we are on just now. All we can do is hold on tight through the lows and catch our breath when we start to edge up that climb again.
I am incredibly fortunate in both my horse and my livery yard, Aberdeen Riding Club. Leo is ridiculously funny and daft, but also incredibly kind. A wonderful combination for putting a smile on your face
And ARC is, quite simply, remarkable. Sally and her team continue to work tirelessly at every stage of lockdown to make sure the very real mental effects of being deprived of horse time and lessons can be mitigated as much as possible. Not easy when Scottish government guidelines on coaching have been so confusing and disappointing. And the effects aren’t just mental. They are of course financial as well and there are some riding schools and individual coaches that might not survive this crisis.
As we look to the future, who knows what that holds to be honest? All I can tell you is that I hope it involves standing in grassy fields chatting in long queues at chip vans waiting for bacon butties! Early morning coffees for those crack of dawn starts on competition day! BBQ’s and drinks around lorries and trailers with makeshift marquees! Oh horsey summers how I have missed you this year. And not least of all because this month most of us would have been heading for our annual trip to Blair. How I wish I could rock that marquee with my supreme dance moves and outstanding singing voice
In the meantime, I’m back in the shop and it’s been awesome to see some of you back! It helps to lift the current miasma and reminds me of how much I love to hear about your horses and how everyone is doing. It reminds me that we are still one big horsey family and that we are navigating our way through this like we do everything else; together. Though we may not all be in the same boat, we are in the same storm. Let’s just hope we can start to paddle further beyond the shore soon.